Friday, October 26, 2012

Celebrity Cenotaph: Actress Hattie McDaniel 1952 GWTW


Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 – October 25, 1952) was an American actress and the first African-American to win an Academy Award. She won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).

McDaniel was also a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she received screen credits for only about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.

McDaniel died at age 57 from breast cancer, in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, on October 26, 1952. She was survived by her brother, Sam McDaniel, a film actor. Thousands of mourners turned out to remember her life and accomplishments. It was her wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, along with her fellow movie stars, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and others. McDaniel wrote: "I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses" I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery." The owner, Jules Roth, refused to allow her to be interred there, because they did not take blacks. Her second choice was Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today.

In 1999, Tyler Cassity, the new owner of the Hollywood Cemetery, who had renamed it Hollywood Forever Cemetery, wanted to right the wrong and have McDaniel interred in the cemetery. Her family did not want to disturb her remains after the passage of so much time, and declined the offer. Hollywood Forever Cemetery instead built a large cenotaph memorial on the lawn overlooking the lake in honor of McDaniel. It is one of the most popular sites for visitors.





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